Thursday, October 07, 2010

Burning Sensations

What an odd collection of talent on display in The Burning (1981, directed by Tony Maylam). It was written by Harvey and Bob Weinstein of all people, and it's littered with soon to be familiar faces, including Holly Hunter and Jason Alexander. Rick Wakeman provides the music. Tom Savini provides the grue. From all that, I think it's Savini who's responsible for the movie's cult status (I have a lot of friends who love it). Really, there's not any reason to see this beyond the many and varied special effects gags, a fact that landed this film on the infamous "Video Nasties" list. This too, contributes to its cult, because there's no surer way to build a cult than to be banned by the bluenoses.

The story here is pretty stock. A pack of kids at summer camp play a prank on the camp's caretaker that goes horribly, horribly wrong. The caretaker is horribly burned. A few years later, most of the kids responsible are still at camp, now as teenagers, and the caretaker is out for revenge. He's pretty indiscriminate about it, too. He's internalized his hatred of the kids responsible into a hatred of ALL kids. Soon enough, the bodies are piling up.

For the most part, this isn't very good. It looks just like any other seventies-era summer camp movie, complete with dodgy day for night shooting. It is interesting, perhaps, to see a proto-slasher movie made before the "rules" of the slasher movie were codified. There is no Final Girl here. Nor is there any element of punishment for moral failings. It doesn't matter how good or bad you are, you're likely to get a pair of hedge clippers in the chest in this movie. The killer does travel around the film via copious off-screen teleportation, though, which is a hallmark of the form. That said, Savini's effects are pretty damned good. He was at the height of his creativity at this point. Savini also generally directs his own scenes, and there's a notable shift in quality when there's a special effects gag on screen.

In the interests of full disclosure, I don't really like slasher movies, but I'm trying to deal with this with equanimity. It's better than most. Not as good as others. It gets docked TONS of points, however, for not setting any of its victims on fire despite putting a flame thrower into its killer's hands near the end of the film. And, y'know, being titled "The Burning."

Current Challenge tally:

Total Viewings: 9

First Time Viewings: 9

No comments: